October 2, 2017
For the first time in the decades-long history of This Old House, we’ll be featuring apprentices working side-by-side with our master crew throughout our upcoming 39th season. So, when CBS Sunday Morning reported on the shortage of skilled labor, they spoke to us about what needs to change and how to do it. Watch the segment below:
Mark Strassmann opened the cover story by talking to our “unlikely star,” Master Carpenter Norm Abram. Norm's dad opened his eyes to the trades and working with his hands, Abram said, and he recalled observing the magic of watching carpenters bring a house “to life” with a pile of lumber. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” Abram told Strassmann, “but it’s very rewarding.”
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Fewer and fewer Americans are experiencing this fulfillment, Strassmann noted, and it’s becoming apparent in the wake of this devastating hurricane season as homeowners are trying to rebuild. Estimates for Hurricane Harvey’s damage alone are at $190 billion, CBS reports, Irma’s hover between $50 and $100 billion, and Hurricane Maria’s could be around the same.
But finding the funds may be easier than finding the skilled labor.
Since the Great Recession in 2008, 1.5 million residential construction workers left the industry. Currently, CBS notes, one estimate states that for every five who retire from the workforce, only one skilled worker is coming in to replace them. The numbers are surprising, but maybe not as much after learning that only 3% of career-minded young people were interested in construction trades in 2017.
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Strassmann goes on to speak with Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders and Henry Jackson, a construction manager in Baltimore. Students, teachers, and administration at Lehigh Career & Technical Institute in Pennsylvania also offer insight, and Strassmann finishes the story speaking with the #1 advocate of trade careers, Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs). All speak to the potential in the skilled trades: the open job positions, the great salary potential, and the personal fulfillment of working with your hands to complete a variety of tasks—which can sometimes be something as quick and urgent, the assistant superintendent of LCTI reminds Strassmann, as fixing a toilet at midnight on a Saturday and walking away with $75 an hour.
You can watch our Generation NEXT apprentices in action this season on This Old House. New episodes begin October 6th in most markets. Check local listings.